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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset .Telephone: Wells (0749) 72126.

Editor: G. Wilton-Jones

I offer no apologies for the late issue of this B.B.  I have only just (14.1.82) received a new screen for the Gestetner, go don't complain to me!

It may be a little late now, but may I take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy new year, even if I've already seen you and done it before.  If you want to make it a happy new year for me, why not write an article, or a paragraph, or a line, or anything.  Your new year's resolution must be to write for the B.B.

Next month’s B.B. should contain an article on Wareham's Cave + survey; a resume of thirty years of the M.R.O. up to Jan. 1981 + incidents for the year up to Jan. 1981; the final chapter from Karen on her trip to the States with Gary; maybe a tome from Wig (which I've had for a year now) on Early Cave photographers and their Work; a review of Jim Eyre’s delightful book "The Cave Explorers" + an up to the minute report on the state match between Eyre & Kelly; plus all the latest news we can gather on the Mendip grapevine.

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH: Have you read the latest Wessex B.B.  Glenys Grass.

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Subscriptions are due (and have been for some time).

They are:                        Ordinary Membership £10.00

                                    Joint Membership           £15.00

Please send yours to:    Fiona Lewis, 53, Partway, Wells, Somerset.


 

The Alderley Edge Copper Mines

by Nigel Dibben

The Derbyshire Caving Club has, for some twelve years, been involved in re-opening and exploring some of the Alderley Edge mines.  Locally the mines are very well known (or rather, notorious) but nationally they are much less known.  This is partly because mines in Cheshire are usually expected to be salt mines, although Cheshire includes seven copper mining localities, together with coal mines on its eastern borders.

THE AREA.

Alderley Edge lies about twenty miles south of Manchester and is a dormitory town of about 5000 inhabitants (mostly quite well off), and is surrounded by level farmland except on the south-east side.  Here there is a raised block of land, the Edge itself, formed by faulting and uplifting giving a scarp of sandstone on the north-east side.  The rock strata dip down to the south-west at about 100 and consist of Keuper and Bunter Triassic sandstones interleaved with marl beds and split by several faults.

MINERALS.

There are many small and large faults criss-crossing the edge and most ore is associated with faulting. The principal ore is Malachite (hydrous copper carbonate) with which Azurite is often found.  Galena is frequently found in the faults and was mined from time to time, as was "wad", a general term for manganese compounds, here including manganese/cobalt/arsenic/nickel mixtures.  The minerals are generally found to extend down dip from the faulting. The source of the minerals is a matter of debate, with one party claiming that the mineralisation arose from hot solutions percolating up the faults while the other party argues that the mineral was formed elsewhere and was laid down with the sand.  A third case is now proposed which combines both arguments!

THE MINES.

In the course of our research more than eighty sites have been recorded but this is far greater than the number of truly interesting mines. The mines can be grouped by locality (approximately from north to south) as follows:

SADDLEBOLE: There is one very small mine and few 2 - 3 metre long trials on an outlying hill called Saddlebole.  The area is of interest only because it is likely to be a very early mining site and smelting place - hence the name.

STORMY POINT: There are three mines of a reasonable size (Pillar Mine - 75m, Doc Mine - 270m, 'Abbadine' s Level' - 125m) but none take more than a matter of minutes to explore.  Doc Mine is currently, blocked about 100m in.  All the mines are located on a mineralised fault running NW/SE and heading at about 600.  The Hough Level (see below) emerges at the Edgeon the line of this fault although the end is blocked and has disappeared completely.

ENGINE VEIN: Further south the Engine Vein is a large gash in the sandstone, reminiscent of some Derbyshire open cuts.  It is well known by visitors and geologists as it contains a wealth of minerals and is the only mine that is almost entirely developed along one fault.  It contains about 500m of passage including three large chambers and a sloping shaft, encrusted with copper mineralisation, that leads down to the Hough Level.  In 1980 the National Trust and Cheshire County Council managed to get enough money together to put a concrete lid on the vein.  This was superbly designed so that the mine is totally enclosed without any loss of outward appearance, the first case I know of truly sympathetic closing of a mine site.  The D.C.C. have obtained an access agreement and hold the keys to the entrance.

BRYNLOW: Brynlow Dell is a wooded valley in which there are two open mines (63m, 130m) two blocked levels and a blocked shaft.  The open mines are both short and uninteresting, though we believe that one may connect with some old, uncharted workings.  The blocked levels and the shaft connect to the Hough Level.

HOUGH LEVEL: (Pronounced "Huff").  Underlying most of the mines named above is a single tunnel about 2m high and a mile long, running from the surface near West Mine to the Edge.  In 1980 access was obtained to one section of this and shortly afterwards extended past a run-in shaft as far as Engine Vein.  Recent exploration has established two periods of mining and dates of 1764 and 1866 were found in a fine section of coffin levels, about 1.3m high by 40m wide, under Brynlow.  Most of our work is concentrated on this passage at present.

WOOD MINE: Wood mine contains about 1½ miles of passage on several levels.  There are numerous loops and interconnecting passages and it is easy to arrange a long, round trip in the mine.  Since the mine is relatively dry, clean and safe, the D.C.C. have, for the last ten years, taken parties of non-cavers ranging in age from four years to 75 years old around the mine!

WEST MINE: This is the most extensive mine, with more than six miles of passage and chambers 10 - 15m high.  West Mine is not connected to any other mines although there is a legend that one passage extends as far as the cellar of a local pub!

SURFACE REMAINS.

Almost all surface remains have been wiped away since the last war, that including a 30m high conical sand heap.  Nevertheless, it is possible that some careful excavation would reveal interesting features.  There is no proposal for such at the present time.

HISTORY.

The mines are thought to have been worked since Bronze Age times and Boyd Dawkins, amongst others, found some stone hammer heads whilst the mines were working.  The documented history starts in 1697 when a dozen men were bound over to keep the peace after a disturbance at the mines (does anything ever change?) and the history since then is known a little better, albeit sketchily.  There was no equivalent to the Derbyshire Barmaster and many records were lost in a fire at the landowner's house in the last century.  Furthermore, the work itself was intermittent and lessees rarely held the mines for more than a few years at a time.

The most extensive period of working was between 1857 and 1877 and this is the only period when output figures were recorded: the mines produced 186,000 tons of ore and about 3,500 tons of copper in the twenty years.  The last recorded working was in the period 1914 - 1919 and none has been carried out since.  Environmental considerations would prohibit any renewal of mining these days.

Visitors started to come to the mines in the 1860's (if not earlier) when the Earl and local and all his family, ladies included, entertained a party of Japanese visitors in the West Mine.  There has hardly been a break in interest since, until after the peak in the 1950's, when the mines were almost all capped and lost.  Since then the D.C.C. has gradually reopened the mines under strict access control for non-cavers.

ACCESS

West Mine is on the land of Mr P.V.R. Sorensen of White Barn Farm, White Barn, Alderley Edge, and access to the mine can only be granted by him.  The other mines are on National Trust property and the Derbyshire Caving Club can either give access (Wood Mine, Engine Vein and Hough Level) or advise visitors with respect to the remainder.  There is usually little interest from bona fide caver's but we generally allow them free access to the mines if they wish.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

There is a number of published articles about the mines but the best and most recent summary is in a book:

The Alderley Edge Mines  written by Dr. Chris Carlon.

A copy of this has been placed in the B.E.C. library.


 

Bel Espoir - Diau Traverse

by Bassett

Reseau Bel Espoir - Diau, Plateau du Parmelan, Haute Savoie

Location: This complete hydro-geological traverse is found in the spectacular lapiaz of the plateau of Parmelan.  The upper entrance is the Tanne du Bel Espoir (pothole of good hope) and the system comes out at the Grotte de la Diau.

One reaches the Tanne du Bel Espoir, situated in the parish of Dingy-St-Clair, by taking the track that goes from Aviernoz to the Chalet de l'Anglette and then following the path towards the Gouffre des Etoiles Filantes (pothole of shooting stars).  The Tanne opens 100m below this pothole.  1.7km to the north east, in the parish of Thorens Glieres, at the bottom of a cirque, at the foot of the plateau in the continuation of the valley of Perthuis, the Grotte de la Diau begins as a spectacular opening.  One reaches there via la Verrerie and a track on the right hand side of the torrent de la Filliere.

History: The entrance of the Grotte de la Diau has always been known and the beginning of the cave had been explored as early as the last century.  In 1932 de Joly and his team, reached a sump a short distance from the entrance.  At the end of 1938 various expeditions explored the cave afresh.  In 1949 the team of Chevalier and the Clan de la Diau reached a sump at a height of 130m and 2650m from the entrance.

The systematic re-exploration of the cave was not taken up again until 1974 (with S.C. Fontaine la Tronche) and in 1975 (by S.C. C.A.F. de Grenoble).  The Chevalier sump was passed by diving but the climbs in the Gronoblois streamway reached a height of + 338m at the base of the Puits des Echos.  In August 1975 B. Talour (S.C. C.A.F.) discovered the Tanne du Bel Espoir, whose exploration, because of a mistake, did, not begin until July 1976.  The junction with the Diau was made at the Puits des Echos on June 6th, resulting in a vertical range of reached of 613m.

In 1978 a junction was made with the Tanne du Tordu, and the vertical range reached 698 m.

Paul Courbon, Atlas des Grandes Gouffres du Monde, 1979. translated by G. W.-J.

While up at the B.P.C. winch meet this year Jane and I were invited to join some of the Bradford on their caving holiday in France during the summer, and do the traverse of the Bel Espoir - Diau system, up in the mountains above the lakeside resort of Annecy. Neither of us had heard anything about the place, although a little research at home would have revealed info in Courbon's "Grandes Gouffres du Monde" and in Caving International. 2. There is also something about the system in Scialet No 4 (1976) and in Spelunca (1976) but we could not get hold of those in a hurry.  So it was all a bit of an unknown – just 500m in 24 pitches (the longest about 50 m) down from the plateau, and into 2½km of  streamway descending a further 100m to emerge at a big cave in the valley.  A fairly straightforward pull-through trip, reckoned Biffo (the other Biffo, i.e. Brian Smith.)

After our Chamonix jaunt we all met up near the little town of Thorens Glieres ands made camp 'a la ferme' at Nantizel, the only camp-site around, so there were no rendezvous problems at all.  Some people were only just at home, tents erected, when we were attacked by the most vicious thunderstorm imaginable.  We cowered in our tent while Geoff Crossley and his little velvet friend 'Mole' cowered in their tent, only a few feet away among the mole hills. The rains whipped down out a dark sky, lit frequently by jagged, purple streaks and bright orange glares. Gradually the sound of accompanying thunder closed the time gap behind the lightning until suddenly light and sound were instantaneous.  The flashes were almost blinding, even through tent and flysheet, and on one occasion we both smelt burning.  Neither of us was prepared to risk going outside to investigate immediately, but as the storm abated we ventured forth to find that all was well - nobody struck and no-one drowned, and all tents still up.  Only the morning light revealed a charred patch of earth, once a proud, up-standing mole-hill, a few feet from our tents.  The lightning need not come any closer than that!

The morning also revealed mist on the plateaux and the chance of yet more storms.  However, we stuck to our plan of going in search of the Diau.  In fact it was not difficult to find as it is a kind of tourist attraction in its own small way.  We only had a black triangle on a Michelin 1 : 200,000 map, but Biffo had slightly more detailed instructions.  Leaving Thorens Glieres on the eastern road, climbing slowly towards a col, we drove along the valley to la Verrerie and then turned right and onto a track beside the stream.  From Thorens Glieres we had gained very little height when the drivable section of track gave way at a decrepitating wooden bridge.  Parking the cars we headed into the soaking wet undergrowth of the wooded slopes.  The B.P.C. stuck to the main path but we followed a narrow, steep, largely overgrown route, and later asked the way of some French tourists, which was helpful. The slopes became steeper as the path zig-zagged its way upwards, leaving the stream tumbling down its own narrow gully far below and to our right.  Past a little cliff face and along a section of path with a near vertical drop below, the trees suddenly thinned out and we emerged into a boulder strewn amphitheatre. Behind and below us a little stream trickled from beneath massive piles of boulders and ran away down a series of waterfalls. In front of us, and to our right and left, the cliffs rose up, overhanging impressively as the cirque reached up to the level of the plateau. Beyond the falling stream came the sound of cowbells.  Far away, across the other side of the valley, the road could be seen, still climbing towards the col, and entrances gaped in the cliffs above it. More immediate to us though, were the gaping holes in the cliffs that surrounded us.  Fortunately we had our climbing headsets with us and were able to do a little exploring straight away.

There are entrances higher up in the cliffs but the four at the base were the ones which interested us. We headed for the nearest first: a good draught came out from it and a little cloud of mist hung in the entrance. A short walk along the single passage brought us to a pitch which was not easily climbable, but the sound of a large stream was enticing.  The second entrance gave us more to explore, and proved to be quite a complex affair, with steep and slippery climbs, rifts, pools, and several interconnecting passages. Following the draught took us along a widening rift over pools until a particularly long and deep looking one turned us back (we were only in walking gear).  En route out a passage on the left dropped to a chamber where a wide, deep-looking pool prevented us from reaching the daylight on the other side, and the third entrance.  The fourth entrance is the biggest one, tens of metres wide and high.  Approaching it, on the left there are large banks of scree and then sand leading up to a choke with the fragile roof, while the way into the main part of the cave is through the lower, wet section on the right.  We clambered across boulders, trying hard to keep our feet dry, until we reached a black space in which our feeble lights picked out nothing.  We left the cave, being careful not to touch the walls, which had that shaly appearance of 'touch me if you dare'.

The B.P.C. had still not arrived so, after a brief search for the resurgence of the water under the boulders below the entrances and in the deep gully with the waterfalls, we headed away from the cirque.  Instead of taking the path back down we followed an upward trending path.  This continued in the same zig-zag fashion and we had soon climbed up above the cliffs that form the cirque.  We began to head away into a more level area - the base of a wide, heavily wooded valley between two plateaux.  The path continued, obviously little used, although sign-posted at one point as going to Dingy, on the far side of the Parmelan Plateau, which now extended to our right.  A few bits lapiaz peeped through the mouldering leaves, and occasional, shallow shafts broke the monotony of the woods.  When it began to rain we rapidly returned, not even stopping for the wild strawberries.

Two of the Bradford - Biffo and Jim Abbott, I think - had gone into the Diau with their one torch and had done a round trip from one entrance to another, just emerging as their light packed up - a token of things to come!  Apparently all four entrances join up inside at a big chamber, the beginning of our black space.

Next day we set off relatively early to "do" the Diau, exploring upstream as far as the Affluent Grenoblois.  Biffo had a good survey with him, and he had also copied out a description written by someone from Sheffield University who had done the trip before.  It seems that it is a classic French through trip and the complete traverse from Bel Espoir is frequently made.

Once inside the big chamber we had to wade/swim around the edge of a lake.  Jane's light had already packed up at the entrance so it was just as well she likes water.  Her light flicked on and off occasionally, usually being off when it was most needed. From the lake we squeezed up into a high chamber whose name, the Ship's Hull, describes it perfectly.  A 5m climb up an ancient electron ladder and through an amazing tangle ropes, belays, bolts and krabs, led to a similar sized and shaped chamber, again with a lake, surrounded this time by vertical walls.  A little climb up the wall led to a shelf. Traversing around this brought us to another fixed ladder and more passage with lakes and deep, blue pools. Soon we could hear the roar of the stream and we suddenly emerged from one passage to find the route blocked by a wide pothole.  Opposite us the stream appeared from the darkness beyond and, roaring and foaming, dropped into the abyss.

We easily found a passage that avoided the pot and came out where we could access the streamway.  The stream flowed down a beautiful phreatic tube, very reminiscent of the Peak streamway, with several fossil or overflow tubes on one side.  After splashing up the stream for some distance, over superb scallops and beside chert nodules and tubes that looked remarkably like fossil arms and legs, the streamway lowered at the approach to a sump.  Into the overflow passages at the side we climbed up one fixed ladder, then another, and into a narrow rift with a howling gale blowing in our faces. At the end of this we climbed down a series of wooden stemples onto a floor of moonmilk, just like the floor used to be in Salubrious in OFD.  A little way down a slippery slope the chamber widened to drop into a large, circular pool.  We had reached the stream beyond the sump, and were about half an hour into the cave.

We had already made use of some Gournier style traverse wires to get along above the stream if we did not want a wetting, and these traverses now began in earnest.  The stream in places was channelled into a relatively narrow passage, less than 2 m wide, and rushed down several cascades and over deep pools.  Above us, but still not near the high roof, was another set of wires, rusty and fragile, indicating the efforts to which previous explorers had gone in order to remain dry.  For hours we seemed to continue, along traverses, through chest deep pools, up waterfalls, under roofs that were almost beyond the beams of nife cells, but always up the stream.  If we had any route finding problems now, it simply meant we had to take to the water and wade or swim.  Eventually we came upon a rope dangling out of a little rift high up on our left. This led to the Maze and avoided some evil, deep ducks in the main streamway.  In fact the Maze was easily negotiated, not being at all complex as supposed.  We just went against the draught.  The Maze was one of the well decorated parts of the system, and deserves some photography, although it is well into the cave and carrying gear would be a bind.  We soon dropped back down to the streamway, onto a floor of boulders underneath a big aven.  The size of the passage was back to normal - big - and we continued quickly up the Salle de Chaos.  A few of us went on as far as the presumed exit of the Grenoblois inlet and a deep pool. Jim and Buzby went on to the Chevalier sump, passing the Affluent Grenoblois proper on the way. Miraculously Jane's light was made to function again (she says it's a real experience doing 2½km of hard streamway in the dark!) and we sped out, reaching the entrance after 5½ hours.

Our third day of activity was spent in finding the top entrance.  We began by driving out to the little village of Aviernoz, on the opposite side of the Parmelan Plateau from the Diau, and then taking the forest road up towards the top of the plateau.  For the first, low section this is a good, tarmac road, but it soon deteriorated into rough track, surfaced with medium to large limestone lumps, and with numerous potholes, steep drops into the nothingness, and huge logs to be avoided.  As we drove gingerly up in the Marina, breaking the steel in two tyres even so, Biffo roared away in his Sid Perou (Subaru) amidst clouds of dust and flying boulders to do the three mile journey up to the plateau in only half an hour!  At the end of the "made up" track someone has very sensibly built the Chalet de l'Anglette, where we all met up and sipped coffee or beer while we perused a huge survey of the system, courtesy of the chalet proprietor.  We already had some instructions for finding the entrance, and he gave us more, so we were clearly going to have very little difficulty.  H-hmm.

We began our walk by circling the head of a long, narrow, upland meadow, following a path that rose quickly into the woods.  The path is well marked with orange and yellow paint as it also led to other, more well known if less deep, caves, and to the summit of the plateau (if plateaux can have such things).  After about a half an hour the conifers thinned out and the paths divided.  Soon the soil itself thinned out leaving nothing but bare limestone - typical lapiaz - with straggling plants and occasional trees growing from cracks in the rocks.  To the east the plateau dropped down in a series of steps and the vegetation increased again.  Suddenly the ground plunges steeply down through a deep, wide, wooded valley, which drops over the Diau cirqu to the north.  This is where Jane and I had walked on that first, damp day.

There is only one sure way to find the Bel Espoir entrance if you have never visited it before.  From the point at which the path breaks out onto the bare lapiaz a line of widely spaced, unintentionally well camouflaged, small cairns leads out just south of east.  The line is fairly straight, passing from the lapiaz into a region of grassy hummocks and dolines, where the trees become more numerous.  The last cairn is perched on a little hill on the very edge of the plateau, and the opening of the Bel Espoir is some 50 m. below it.

We had been told that the entrance was located beside two dead trees, standing uppright in the shape of a "V".  For three hours we searched, always too far to the north.  It seemed that every dead tree, and there must have been hundreds, had another one beside it and all these pairs of trees could be imagined as forming a "V".  We must have found every other site of spelaeological importance on the plateau, and we certainly inspected every pair of dead trees several times.  On occasions we were all spread out so far apart that no-one knew where anyone else was.  Jane got herself utterly lost and only found herself when she had walked in a complete circle and accidentally stumbled upon the marked path that led back to the Chalet de l'Anglette.  Eventually Jim and Biffo found the cairns (and me) and, following the line of these, we found the entrance.  There is a pair of dead trees, not even remotely resembling a "V" shape. They will probably fall down soon - we were almost in the mood to help them on their way.   It was late afternoon by now and the clouds had threatened once or twice to roll in and conceal all, but we delayed long enough for Frank to change into his gear and descend the first pitch for photographs.  We then dumped all the rope and SRT gear we had carried up, re-traced our steps to the cars, and left the plateau.

In the morning, as early as possible, we set out through the mists for the 'big trip'.  Imagine the amazement of a party of Swiss schoolchildren 'en vacances' when an English car hurtles up the track, is rapidly parked, two people jump out and quickly disappear back along the track, then a second car roars up the track, does a quick turn around the first, and also disappears the way it came.  Actually we were dumping my car below the Diau ready for our emergence.  Not much later we had driven up through the dripping pines to the Chalet de l'Anglette once more.  Some of the group were very kindly, if unwillingly, going to return the vehicles to the bottom.  Some had taken much cajoling the day before, and so all shall remain nameless! Nevertheless, many thanks to them. The rest of us - Jim Abbott, Frank Croll, Geoff Crossley, John Green, Raymond "Snake" Lee, Mark Perry, Brian Sellars, Brian "Biffo" Smith and your very own B.E.C. reps speedily crossed the plateau and kitted up at the Bel Espoir entrance.  Some of us had opted for wetsuits while others intended to do the trip in dry gear. Neither proved ideal, although water conditions were now quite low and the 'dry 'people were much warmer during the overlong lays in the vertical section of the cave.  We 'wet' people were at least able to enjoy ourselves much more in the river passage, swimming, wading or even running downstream at times.

We also had differing ideas about lighting - some used mega-carbides, one or two were on stinkies and some used electrics.  Two people even had back up lights (some new fangled device in case your main light failed). The B.E.C. duo each had an ultra reliable nife cell, with super bulb, pilot bulb plus spares, guaranteed eighteen hours brilliant lighting, freshly top-up charged on the Bassett-mobile charging unit.  The first failed on the first pitch, the second failed on the second pitch.  Not to be outdone, the B.P.C. decided to have a little light-pox, but even by the end of the trip they had been unable to match our magnificent 100% failure, only managing a miserable 62½%.

The first, second and fourth pitches are each pendulums.  Belaying to the obvious, rotten tree at the entrance, part-way down the pitch it is necessary to swing or traverse around the wall to reach a little alcove and the narrow drop into the next shaft.  Part way down the second pitch was a much longer swing, in space, to reach a rift in the far wall - quite how Jim and Geoff achieved this initially we are not certain, but everyone else was pulled across by those already there.  By now the entrance pitch rope had been pulled down behind us and our only way on was downwards - no going back!  We began to gather at the base of the short, third shaft, waiting for the rope from above in order to rig the next pitch.  Now our next little difficulty occurred.  The second rope pulled through the belay, as it should, until the end reached the hanger, where it stuck, fast.  Even when all of us hung on the other end of it and jumped up and down it remained stuck.  At least it gave us faith in the strength of both Marlow rope and the Frog belays, however awful the latter may appear to be (see next page for diagram).  The belays are designed for pull through trips and are basically a bar set across a piece of "U" channel alloy. Unfortunately, if, our theory is correct, the space behind the bar is only just sufficient for the rope, and B.P.C. ropes have very stiff marker sleeves on their ends.  The rope ends simply would not bend around the gaps available.  Fortunately we had a knife - what would the B.P.C. do without the B.E.C.? - and were able to cut off the bottom part of the rope.  We then cut off every identification sleeve from the other ropes.  True, we could have managed by removing only one marker sleeve from each rope but we were not taking any chances.  Now we each had to remember the length of the piece of that we each carried.  Needless to say, memories are short and tackle bags were soon mixed up, resulting in several interesting pseudo-mathematical discussions to determine which bag held which rope, but we managed.

 

frog pull-through hanger plate

After the fourth shaft and an enormous pendulum across a wide void the passage deteriorated into a series of very muddy descents for a while, with a good draught showing that this was, indeed, the way.

Suddenly the route opened out once more and the walls became clean of the sticky clay.  A beautiful shaft hung clear of the wall and dropped into a large, boulder floored chamber, the Salle des Rhomboedres.  Some of us saw only vague shadows and inky blackness, had to be led across the chamber among some rather precarious boulders. Water was available here, dripping heavily down a corner of the wall above another precarious pile of boulders. The opportunity was taken to re-water carbides, although we found that water was plentiful from now on.  We also had a bite to eat while waiting here.

In the Salle des Rhomboedres the cold draught was briefly lost as it circulated around the chamber, but was soon found once more as we traversed steeply down a narrow rift that began between the boulders and one wall.  The rift became steeper and narrower until it went vertical.  Ahead we could hear Jim and Geoff's shouts echoing tremendously.  We had reached the top of the Puits des Echos, where echoes reverberate for several tens of seconds.  The pitch is split into three sections.  Once out onto the second part it is clear that the shaft rises an unbelievable distance above. The landing is on a ledge part way down a wide, beautifully fluted shaft, and the final section of 50m is the longest drop of the system.  At the base of the Puits des Echos writing on the wall records the link up of surveying/exploration parties, and indicates the way on down towards, the Diau.  This point marks a change in the character of the cave.  The route soon develops into a well decorated bedding cave whose mud-slope floors drop into a narrow, vadose trench.  The trench deepens and eventually it is possible to drop down, by rope to its floor and the streamway itself.  The bolt and hanger at this point were among the most lethal in the cave.  We had no spanner (a box spanner is necessary) and several of us decided not to risk the hanger.  We sacrificed some more rope in order to create a belay around a large boulder embedded in the mud slope.

In the refreshing streamway we spread out more - even without lights the B.E.C. managed to move a surprising distance downstream, arguably a dangerous practice but neither of us fell down any of the shafts.  The next shafts had single ropes rigged on them, and these were of Marlow S.R.T. rope, cut to length.  At first, those of us towards the back of the party, i.e. the de-rigging group, wondered why B.P.C. rope was being squandered in this way.  However it turned out that a British group had been through the system only a fortnight previously and it was they who had left ropes in place, for speed.

We all met up again at the 30m shafts.  The first is wet, but part way down it is possible to traverse across to a ledge and drop the second shaft, which is dry.  It was fortunate that the others had waited for us. The rope down the first section of the wet pitch was just long enough and the end was simply a frayed tassel.

It was necessary to abseil down this, lock off, lean out and up, clip into a tyrolean, unlock and abseil off the rope end, and traverse to the ledge.  Actually it was a very easy process, with lots of lights and helpful advice, but in the dark that 4m rope over a 30m drop would have been deadly. If this process was worrying then the next pitch, the dry 30m was mind destroying.  The hanger plate loosely clung to fractured lumps of limestone in a shattered wall, with no possibility of a back up belay.  A steeply sloping ledge stopped short of this almost fictitious belay and we had to lean out to the rope.  Once on the rope the swing out was enough strain to bring down bolt, hanger, wall and all so we did this bit very gingerly and then zipped down the rope almost in free-fall mode to avoid excessive jerking.  With burnt out neurons we all made the bottom otherwise unscathed.  We have all since become somewhat blasé about the solidity of belays.

The final pitch of this Affluent Grenoblois is simply a steep slope, notable mainly for its excess of bits of decaying rope.  We had now reached a more or less level area of muddy climbs and pools, very sumpy looking. The lively little stream had disappeared.  Wading through one pool we suddenly came into larger passage, and we took some moments to recognise it as the Diau, where some of us had been only two days before. From here we were home and, though not dry, we had fewer problems with water than before, for stream levels had reduced considerably.  One group raced off out, finally making exit only one light.  We were more sedate, even though we had two working lights. Nevertheless we made steady progress out.  We thought we were lost near the Diau entrance series - one of the lakes in which we had swum before had now dried up completely.

We had entered the Bel Espoir around midday and we emerged to starlight at the large Diau entrance and amphitheatre about fifteen hours later.  Mark had not come onto the plateau with us the day before, but he had not been lazy.  He had visited the Diau had deposited a bottle of beer among the rocks on the entrance chamber floor.  We now drank our fill and toasted our success.  The cave still tried to beat us, to have the last word.  As we sat supping ale a rock plummeted off the roof, only just missing Jane.  But we had won.

Just give us a light or two, a few metres of rope and a bottle of beer.  We can do anything!

*****************************************

I have a survey and location maps.  If I can get photocopies of them for nix, I'll put them in the next B.B. They may be of interest.


 

Agen Allwedd

The access regulations have now gone back to the old system, of booking a key and sending a deposit, although clubs who can justify that they are working in the cave, or who visit the cave regularly, can apply for an annual permit and key.  Issue of this will be decided at the Management Committee annual meeting (held every October).  Those requiring to book should write to:

The Honorary Permit Secretary
Alun S. Nutt,
12, The Crescent, Cwmbran,
Gwent.
NP 44 7 JG

Buckets And Pails In The Ardeche

by Buckett Tilbury

While looking at the cold rain through the window I decided that a few lines about caving in the hot sun of the South of France might not come amiss.  (Actually I've been pestering him to write something for the B.B. for over a year now - Bassett.)

This year (depends on when you receive your B.B.) 1981, Ann, Tina, Tina's friend Kirsty and I went to the Ardeche Valley where we supposed to meet Graham, Jane and the Bradford.  We failed to meet up and so proceeded to have a tourist holiday soaking up the sun, visiting show caves and attending to all the local wines.  While doing all this we kept noticing holes in cliffs and people with caving gear coming and going.  This all got too much for me so off we went in search of information.

We found the information at an exhibition of spelaeology in a cave at the head of the gorge.  This was very interesting in its own right but much more information could have been obtained if we had been able to speak good French.  The girl in charge was a caver and, although her English was as limited as our French, she suggested we attempt cave just across the river and 20km long.  She also gave us a description of how to find the entrance, already printed along with information on other sites, on a piece of paper under the heading of 'Sites Naturels Remarquables'.

The next afternoon saw the four of us strolling along the river bank looking for the cave entrance. Well - the others were strolling, I was staggering along with two shopping bags of clothes and gear, shopping bags being the only method we had to carry things.  After half a mile I thought we must be somewhere near the cave and suggested that we look for the entrance.  It was then pointed out that as there was a nice beach here I could go and look while Ann and the girls sunbathed and had a swim in the river - it was rather hot.

I located the entrance after some scrambling in the bushes by doing the obvious thing and following the path!

I dragged the others off the beach and we decided to change in the entrance.  At this point I discovered that I had brought down from the car two left boots.  This did not lead itself to the leader being able to lead as with these boots on I would just go round in a left hand circle.  Back to the car to change the boot.  Half a mile each way in the hot sun.  My resolve was beginning to crack.

When I returned the others were changed so I quickly got ready and we were off to tackle 20km of large, dry, French cave - or so I thought.  As we started down into the large entrance passage, Ann did remark that one caving helmet and one carbide lamp with a spare change of carbide and three small hand torches was not much with which to tackle such a cave.

The passage was approximately 10 - 15m wide and 3m high with a flow of cold air coming out.  We followed the passage, descending slowly over the boulder floor for some distance until Tina, who was in front, reported that there was a large pool of water with a small stream running in from the other side.  The pool was surrounded by thick mud.  We traversed in the mud round the pool and gained the gravel stream bed.  We pressed on for a few metres but were brought to an abrupt halt, as we rounded a bend, a large pool of water and a lowering of the roof to water level.  The passage leading this was still large but with mud banks on either side of the stream bed.  A quick look around confirmed that we had reached a sump.  Tina enquired if she could hold my helmet while I performed a Casteret style feat in the sump!

Feeling a little disappointed we turned and started out.  It was then that Ann observed that we had lost the cold draught, so we had probably missed a passage on the way in.  Sure enough, as we investigated the walls on the way out, a passage opening appeared, about 1m high and 3m wide, with the cold draught.

We progressed up this passage, over boulders, until a section of stal, which we had to creep through, to a chamber where we could stand up again.  On the 10ft side was a large stal boss which appeared to block the way on here.  On the right corner a rift passage left the chamber so we followed this.  The rift was about 1m wide and 15 high with solid floor and walls.  As we followed the rift passage it was suddenly bisected by a much larger rift which left us looking down a 10 - 15 m. pitch with the far wall 5m away.  The pitch looked climbable but, without any ropes, we decided discretion the better part of valour and we made our way back to the chamber with the stal.

While we were admiring the stal I went and -had a closer look at the stal boss and found a hole at the side with a howling gale coming through - the way on.  Off we went again, this time in a rounded passage, 2 to 3m across with a packed mud floor.  We made good progress along this passage and were really getting into our stride when a pool appeared across the passage.  It stretched away into the distance and round a bend in the passage. After much discussion the girls decided that, as they were wearing their going out Jeans, they would not cross the water.  We made our way out and back to the river, were we played 'set the water on fire' with the carbide.

The cave we had tried to tackle is called the Event de Foussoubie.


 

Monthly Notes

ST. CUTHBERT’S SWALLET: Maypole Alpha (one of the avens above Upper Traverse Chamber) and Hanging Chamber were both revisited after an absence of several years, early in December.  From the base of Maypole Pitch John Dukes, encouraged though hardly assisted by Bassett and Jane, managed to reach high underneath the overhang to Hanging Chamber. Using a tape prusik knot 'a la Bassett' on the old wire for safety, John got in a runner some way up but jacked out on the minute, muddy, sloping, unstable ledges that he had mistaken for holds. Rob Harper completed the climb with some daring, totally unprotected moves, and now a ladder has been hung down the top section of the climb.  They gained further height but the way on appears to be across the Maypole rift, and the passage will require much thought and cunning to reach.

In Maypole Alpha Martin Grass, Tim and Duckett teamed up.  Tim put in a few runners and then Duckett pushed on over the Hairy bit and through a squeeze to find visual connection with Hanging Chamber and about 100 feet of passage with good stal decorations.  There are no ways on from here.

HAYDON DROVE SWALLET: Drew, Quiet John and Alan Thomas have been busy here and they have broken into passage which doubles the length to about 70 feet.

DAN YR OGOF: In the summer of 1980 some of us closely scrutinised the end of Tubeways, beyond Dali' s Delight - here is the obvious place to search for a dry route to the Mazeways complex and the elusive D.Y.O. 4 towards Sink y Geidd.  From one side of the final aven every feasible route was pushed to its extremity, and no obvious digging sites were apparent.  There was no significant draught at the time.  We were informed that the other side of the aven had been looked at.

On a recent visit to Dali's the draught was considerable.  We shall be giving this area further attention soon, probably using smoke to follow the draught.

THE RUMOUR: What rumour?

FONTAINE DE VAUCLUSE: With the F.F.S. financing the supply of bottles of helium mixture, Jochen Hassenmayer has dived the Vaucluse to a depth of 145m.  He was able to see on downwards for a further 30m.

WEST KINGSDALE RESCUE: During a weekend in which the worst flooding in living memory hit parts of the Dales, two parties went .into the West Kingsdale system.  One party three people became trapped on ledges above the rapidly rising main streamway. Members of C.R.O. managed to get near enough to them to throw a line, and it was then a case of jumping into the torrent and hoping.  Soon after their rescue the master cave must have sumped in several places.

Meanwhile the other party had entered Simpson's and had reached the bottom only to find a lake where there should have been a sloping pile of boulders at the base of Swinsto Great Aven.  The flood pulse had already arrived from Swinsto, and the party only just made it back up the Great Aven to safety before the flood pulse came through Simpsons.

C.R.O. callout was at 8 p.m. but at that time Valley Entrance was acting as a resurgence. Entry to Simpson's was equally out of the question.  By 5 a.m. there was less water, so one party entered Simpsons, but the Duck below Storm Pot was sumped.  The other party entered a very aqueous Valley Entrance.  In Roof Tunnel foam was thee feet up the wall at Window Aven and a raging river hurtled into the Downstream Sump, only two feet below the lip of the (normally) 17 foot pitch.  A traverse line was rigged along the ledges of the master cave and eventually the rescuers were able reach the base of Great Aven.  Above the noise of water their shouts were not heard and they saw no sign of the trapped party.  They made their way out, and then went up to Simspon's, as the C.R.O. divers were in the Valley Entrance team.  With mini-bottles, the Duck in Simpson's was passed and lined for free-diving, whereupon the rest the team came through.  The trapped party were found and were brought out via the rigged traverse in the master cave and thence Valley Entrance.

BURNING CHAMPERS ON THE BELFRY STOVE: Any of the less regular visitors to the Belfry recently may have been surprised by the vast stacks of Babycham crates everywhere - something wrong with Butcombe these days? they might well have asked. Actually Showerings wanted this festering pile of woodwork cleared from their site, so Jeremy Heney had it delivered, in four lorry loads, to the Belfry.

A substantial number were used to create an enormous blaze in the depression on Bonfire night – no one dared to try any fire-walking through the immense heat - and an effigy of O.C.L. was burnt after Bob & Dany tunnelled their way into the very centre of the heap to put their Boy Scout knowledge to good use and set it alight. Many thanks to Jeremy, especially from well-toasted Belfry regulars.

LIBRARY: If you have any suggestions of books or other publications the B.E.C. ought to buy for the Club Library, please make these to the librarians, J-Rat and Batswine, at the Belfry.  Furthermore, donations of literature are always welcome, even if we have little room for it at present.

BELFRY: Electricity - The last winter's quarterly bill was around £400.  Would members please try to minimise our electricity bills by turning out unnecessary lights, by not making extravagant use of hot water supplies (showers, wall heater, hot tap in women's room) and by ensuring that electricity supplies are switched off at the mains if you are the last person to leave after a weekend.

Guests - under normal circumstances, non-members are not allowed to stay at the Belfry unless a member, who will be responsible for them, is also present.

Mid-week usage - members are asked to supply their own fuel for the stove if they wish to use it mid-week. Burning lots of fuel to heat the Belfry for one or two people has been too wasteful in the past.  An instant type shower unit has been fitted in the women's shower cubicle, to assess if this kind of unit is suitable for the Belfry. Would mid-week users please use this, or use the slot meter and men's showers, and not switch on the main immersion heater in the hot water tank.  Please remember to pay your 10p for every time you have a shower


 

Austria

Austria, Winter 1981-1982

Blitz and Herr Bobby (Chris Smart and Rob Harper) spent the I.D.M.F. grant on two pairs of snow-shoes and made their way to Austria this winter in a little Renault with 'summer' tyres, to the amazement of the locals.  The weather was atrocious and they could not get above 1400m under their own steam.  The mountain huts closed but they went up the Dachstein-seilbahn to the Mammuthohle and had a trip there.  Mammuthohle is now the 7th deepest cave in the world.  A system has been found further up the mountain which leads into the Wiener Labyrinth and, thence into the Minotaurus Labyrinth, giving a total depth of 1174m.  The cave is now the deepest in Austria and has been explored entirely by Austrians - the Poles have had nothing to do with it!  Blitz and Rob were warned that it was impossible to reach Barengasse under the prevailing conditions (only the most experienced skiers might attempt the traverse) so they spent the time usefully at a P.U. in Koppenbrullerhohle, and then in firmly cementing Anglo-Austrian relations with Alcohol.

Hopeful there will be a full report from them in the near future.

A Tourist Cave: Tito Bustillo, Northern Spain

by Sue Dukes' Mum.

We decided on a holiday abroad this year.  We chose Northern Spain and, pouring over the map in anticipation, months before we were due to go, were delighted to find that our ferry port at Santander was only a few miles away from Altamira, the home of the famous cave paintings; a place we had long wanted to visit.

Imagine our disappointment when, arriving there eagerly the same day as we docked, we were shown into, not the magical caves we, had expected, but a small and rather non-descript system of worn, rather jaded looking stalagmite formation.  Obviously a mistake had been made!

The six or seven in our party - ourselves, some Americans and a couple of Germans were all looking a bit bewildered and feeling increasingly disgruntled as we listened to the torrent of Spanish issuing from our guide.  As it was obvious that not one of understood the language, I cast around for a few words that might help.

"Cuevas de los Toros?" I asked.

It took ten minutes of Spanish backed up by a lot of signs to tell us that the famous cave of prehistoric paintings was closed to the public, had been for four years, and would be for another one.  Something to do with restoring or preserving, we gathered.  The breathing of thousands of tourists over the years was proving to be extremely non-beneficial to the paintings - at least, that was the conclusion we came to after studying the guide's excellent charade.

We accepted the sad fact philosophically, looked at the photographs in a nearby museum, decided that was that and wended our way.  Enjoying our holiday during the       next three weeks made us forget all about the caves.

That is, until the day before we were due to come home.  Crossing the River Sella into a little town called Ribadasella, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a signpost, on which I recognised the one word, "cuevas". We turned back and had another look. It was true; there were caves, open to the public.  The name meant nothing to us - Tito Bustillo it was called.  We decided we might as well have a look because it could not be any worse than what we had seen at Altamira.

The entrance to the cave was obviously man-made, with what was probably the original entrance down below pavement level on our left - a three foot cleft out of which a stream trickled.  While we were waiting for the guide we tried to read the large plaque on the wall, our Spanish having improved considerably during the holiday (I now had twelve words!). As far as we could make out, it said that the cave had been discovered accidentally in 1968 by a party of subterranean explorers who had been searching in the mountains for a colleague who had been lost for eighteen days.  It did not state whether they had found him or whether, if they did, he was alive or dead. My theory is that they were so excited at having found a new system; they decided he was capable of looking after himself anyway!

After awhile, a party of twenty or so having now assembled, our guide unlocked the grille which barred the way into the cave.  We went through another three doors about fifty yards apart, each of which was locked behind us as we went through, and was air-tight against the rock.

The guide had about as much English as we had Spanish.  We got along fine, understanding about one word in twenty.  We got the gist of what he was saying, however, which was to the effect that the doors were there to maintain a constant temperature in the cave. All this time we were still in an artificial tunnel and were beginning wonder when the real cave was going to appear. The marks of the drills were clearly to be seen. in the walls and the roof.

At last we reached the main system.  It was not brilliantly lit but the lighting was well hidden and was used to very good effect.  There were some quite interesting bits of formation, and I was quite impressed - then we went round a corner and it was unbelievable tier on tier of beautiful stalactites, in pristine condition, from a ceiling so far above as to be only just visible; some joined to stalagmites; others huge, pointed; all completely unbroken, in all shades through cream and white to tan and deepest brown.  There were curtains cascading down the walls, and niches in which we could see more, smaller, and equally perfect and unbroken formation.

We walked on and on. I did not need to listen to the guide - in fact, I was glad I could not understand him, if the spiel was anything like the rubbish they dish out in England, with names to the various formation groups like "Fairy Grotto", "Organ Pipes" and "Swiss Village".

In places we saw the finest, thinnest, tallest columns I have ever imagined - perhaps we had them in Mendip caves once, but long and careless usage has ruined them if they ever existed.  One was about three quarters of an inch in diameter and about ten feet, tall.  I can just visualise, if it had been discovered a hundred years ago, like some of our poor Mendip caves, how some idiot would have surely tested it to see if it would break.

The colours in the various chambers were fantastic - even blue-green in places from deposits of copper. I particularly liked a pure white formation issuing from a cavity thirty or more feet up the wall; clean and glistening, crystals glittering as they caught the light from the guide’s torch as we passed.  I suppose it could be likened to a frozen waterfall but to me, whose poetic vision has been stunted through years of cooking meals, it resembled a great vat of icing, sugar that had been tipped up and allowed to drip down the rock face in waves.

I was overwhelmed. The cave more than made up for the disappointment at Altamira.  About one kilometre into the mountain we turned a corner into pitch blackness. The guide waited for us all to assemble, then shone his torch on the walls.  Here was the ‘piece de resistance’!  Cave paintings!  We gazed in wonder on the herds of deer, the horses and the buffalo, put there so many thousands of years ago, and I felt my cup of happiness quite full.  Neither Mike nor I had realized that there were paintings as well!  There was evn a carving on the rock, just discernable as an animal of some probably a deer.

Imagine the feelings of those “subterranean explorers” who had stumbled all unwittingly into this magnificent system, and then, to cap everything, to find cave paintings as well! No wonder they forgot the poor devil who had been lost in the mountains for eighteen days.


 

The B.E.C. Gets Everywhere, and Gets There First.

To Al

Glancing through the pages of that other journal, from the club across the fields, I came across a reference to our infamous Bertie stickers.  The Editor of the Wessex Journal would have us believe that, although we get everywhere, we are not necessarily the first, and cites Norway as, an example.  As I was there, I can reveal the truth:

Up in the Arctic is a place called Sommarset, as a sign which rightfully surely belongs on Mendip, but was too large for our rucksacks, will testify. I entrusted my minion, Al Keen, now Wessex Hon. Ed., with the enviable: task of placing a B.E.C. sticker upon the said sign.  This he dutifully did, and I have the photograph to prove it.  Now I ask you, can he justifiably claim that the Wessex got there first?

Now read on.

Manchip was lucky enough to be travelling On the Advanced Passenger Train when it made its maiden journey.  When the train reached 120mph, he made his way to that place where all self respecting B.E.C. members (and Elsan C.C. members) would go to celebrate momentous occasions.

There is now a Bertie firmly affixed to the roof of the A.P.T., and we definitely did get there first.


 

Letters To The Editor

Dear Sir,

As a member of the offending family (letter to the Editor, B.B. V35, 10/11) may I first offer my apologies to Bob Hill and anyone else who was offended by our dealing with our children's nappies in the main room of the Belfry.

As far as I see it, Bob's complaint is that he dislikes children's pots and dirty nappies being in the same room as cooking and eating facilities.  However, I too have a problem, that of wishing to attend the Belfry (on fairly rare occasions) as well as keeping my family together.  As is the case with many other family member, we do not have the freedom to tolerate our children; we have a full time responsibility to look after them and their every needs.

Whilst at the Belfry, we usually camp in the Snake Pit in order to stay together as a unit but, particularly in the middle of Autumn, we find it necessary to use the main building for everything else but sleeping, in order to keep the children warm enough. We therefore find it necessary to let the children use a toilet in the Belfry.

We have four places to choose from:

The toilets themselves are too large for the children to sit on and the rooms are too small and draughty for the children to use a pot;

The shower area is large enough but is far too cold and draughty to leave a child on a pot (for up to half an hour, seriously - children cannot control bodily functions in the same manner as adults);

The sleeping quarters and the main area are left as the only reasonable places.

We nearly always choose the main area because it enables us to supervise the children while we continue to do other jobs round about us for that lengthy period.

I might add that our fairly wide experience of families suggests that whilst some do banish their children (and “minder”) to some far corner of the house most use the kitchen or living room to carry out this task.  We have one friend, a real stickler for cleanliness, who feeds her child whilst the child sits on her pot.

When we deal with our children's nappies we ensure our hands are washed before continuing with other chores - I wonder how many people staying at the Belfry wash their hands after using the toilet and before they use the utensils?

Frankly, I am amazed that Bob should take exception to our child-management when the Belfry is kept in the manner that it is.  I know it is a lot better than it was ten years ago when I first joined the B.E.C. but you could hardly call it hygienic with its usually dirty toilets and sinks, work surfaces and tables and its unaired bedding.  I do not complain about these things, nor do I get upset at the bad language which seems to be a part of Belfry life, even though I attempt to shield children's ears from it.

It also seems a pity that Bob did not mention his feelings to us, and suggest a suitable alternative location at the time, as the general consensus seemed to be that this was an amusing sight, not a distasteful one.

I sincerely believe, Bob, that once you have children of your own, your views will alter considerably unless you wish to become a hermit!

Yours,

Ian Wilton-Jones.
30th December 1981

Dear Ed

After reading Bob Hill's letter to the Editor, in the October/November B.B., may I also express my ‘surprise and dismay’- though not with the same self-righteous, hypocritical attitude that Bob feels.

I have only been staying at "The Hut" for a mere ten years now; I am a newcomer.  During the many happy hours I have spent at the Belfry, I have seen many incidents take place, most harmless, some dangerous, some requiring action by the Club committee.  And so, personally, the simple, natural act of a young, nursing mother (herself a long-standing and friendly member of the Club) of placing her infant upon its potty, then changing its nappy, is the least of my worries about the Belfry.

Bob goes on piously to say "apart from the hygiene aspect, as the main room is also the cooking area, etc."  Well, I hope that he remembers this the next time he is involved in a "Belfry Operation" on the Belfry dinner table, or joins in a "Honk Competition", such as last month's.

Just spare a thought for the young child listening to your language, or worse, witnessing the "Coital Activities" that some younger Club users feel they cannot go without in the Bunkroom on a weekend.

I must be amongst the last to throw any stones, and perhaps Bob, too, should remember the old maxim about Glass Houses.

Yours defensively,

"Mr" N.,
Nig. Taylor.

*       *      *     *      *

 Woking,
    Surrey,
      GU21 5JU

23rd December 1981

Dear Graham,

I am taking the unusual step of writing to you as Chairman and Editor concerning the supply of tackle. I find it incredulous that tackle (lightweight expedition ladder) is not available to members as it is locked away even within the tackle store!  I have attempted to contact John Dukes both at home and at work to no avail.  This has led me to the distressful action of the forcing of the lock.

I feel that if tackle is not available to all members at any hour of the day or night then there is something wrong with the Club.  At the very least, hut warden should have access to all items of club property.

Finally, please find enclosed a cheque to cover the cost of a new hasp.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Smart.


 

Saint Cuthberts Practice Rescue

by Martin Grass.

A practice rescue was held in St. Cuthbert’s on Saturday 5th. December 1981.  It was decided to see if an injured caver could be carried through the September Boulder Ruckle.  The Victim was Jane Clarke and the team consisted of Graham Wilton-Jones, Kangy and Jonathon King, Graham Price, Chris Smart, Graham Johnson, Rachel Clarke and Martin Grass.

We entered the cave at 1150hrs and made. our way to September Chamber via the Wire Rift and Boulder Chamber.  Once we had arrived in the Chamber Kangy started showing us suitable methods of strapping a victim into a drag sheet.  A Whillans Sit Harness was placed on the victim and this was used to secure her in the drag sheet using one length of rope and making various handles with it at the same time.  While this was going on I suddenly realised we were one rescue member short - we had lost Chris in the Boulder Ruckle!  After a lot of shouting, mainly from him, he finally emerged saying he could hear us very clearly for the past 15 minutes but could not get to us.

It was agreed Jane had concussion and a broken arm, as this meant one arm could be secured inside the drag sheet (a broken leg would have been much better but we had no splints).

The carry started at 1310hrs and went slowly at first but, once we got into a rhythm things moved quickly, our main problem being the confined nature of the ruckle, which sometimes meant all rescuers were behind the victim!   About ¾ of the way through the Ruckle a tight dog-leg squeeze caused about a 10 minute delay but, once extra hauling ropes had been attached, the problem was solved (a patient with a broken leg or back would have a major problem here).  The rest of the carry went very smoothly and we arrived in High Chamber at 1445hrs. With Jane out of the drag sheet we all left the cave and made exit at 1520hrs after a very worthwhile exercise.

Conclusions: The only complaint Jane had was that a Whillans Sit Harness is very painful between the legs for females (hope we didn't ruin a good weekend for you, Bassett).  She suggests that leg loops would be far more comfortable.

Thanks to all those that turned up to help.


 

University Of Bristol Paul Esser Memorial Lecture, -1982

For our next Paul Esser Memorial Lecture we have been lucky enough to secure the services of Julian Griffiths, who will be talking to us about "Expeditionary Caving". The lecture will be held in the usual place, the Large Physics Theatre in Tyndall Avenue (opposite the Senate House) on Wednesday 17th. February 1982, at 8.15pm, admission free.  The Vice Chancellor will be taking the Chair.

Julian is already well known in caving circles, where he is also a very distinguished cave-diver, and in expeditionary circles for having overturned his car and survived as well as any others and better than most.

He started caving in 1966 whilst still at school ( Clifton College) but has since deserted Mendip for the North, for which reason he settled in the Leeds neighbourhood.  While at Cambridge ( Pembroke College) he led his college Rugby Fifteen into the finals of “Cuppers” more than once, but eventually decided that he preferred caving.

His first expedition was with his University Caving Club in 1972 to the French Pyrenees, where he returned in 1973 and 1974, and since then has visited Italy, Switzerland, France, Austria, Greece and, of course, Ireland, where he materially assisted the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society in their exploration and survey of Hawthorn Cave and Bullock Pot.

If anybody coming from a distance would like to have seats reserved, please write to me.

Oliver Lloyd, Withey House, Withey Close West, Bristol, BS9 3SX


 

Practice Rescue, St. Cuthberts, 5th. December '81

by Kangy

Our Caving Sec., one Martin Grass,
Communicating with a mass
Of letters sent by H.M. Mail,
Began his letter with a wail:
"Dear Leader," said this dismal screed,
"I implore, indeed I plead,
That you should give a little time
To practice rescue in the grime.
The venue for this practice, grave
Is down inside St. Cuthbert’s Cave.
Please join our dedicated men.
Meet at the Belfry, half past ten."
The lunatic then finished raving,
"See you there, I'm yours in caving."
My conscience pricked, my unease spread,
I slowly climbed out of my bed,
I found my gear, I filled my lamp,
I found my grots all green and damp.
I sighed for signs; no sign was sent,
So to the Belfry, soft, I went.
 
The day was bright. The sun shone down.
The cheery banter cleared my frown.
The plan of action - B.E.C.
A simple one, "Let's wait and see."
So to the tackle store we went,
For practice rescue equipment,
To nothing find but canvas sheet;
And Martin's nicely written whine
Attracted a huge crowd of nine.

A full scale rescue wasn't on;
Such small resources would be gone.
We then accepted, with a chuckle,
To pull a victim through a ruckle.

Our interest was on the wane,
Then interest rose as in walked Jane,
And Grass announced, with wicked leer,
"Look out, lads, our victim's here."
The team would in September meet
To tie Jane in a carry sheet,
And many hearts concealed a hope
Of getting in a practice grope.
 
The Entrance Rift was swiftly dammed,
The team descended, just as planned,
And plunged into September's maze,
Where Herr Blitz wandered round for days,
And Graham of the Cerberus
Reassured and humoured us
Emerging high up in the rift
To climb into September's gift.
To those of you who've never been,
This is a jewel which must be seen
To be believed; it is so fine
A silence fell upon the nine.
We tied Jane in her carry bed
And listened carefully while she said
That one arm tied was quite enough -
The one left free could get quite rough.

An injured victim in a cave
Needs a willing, personal slave,
To watch for points like mud in eye
And soothe the victim's every sigh.
Admittedly the case we had
Wasn't really quite as bad,
But Sister Rachel, full of love,
Promised vengeance from above
And, stationed by the bottom rope,
Protected sister from a grope.
Here W-J. announced his part
Emotion would, not rule his heart.

The carry party giving up
Gripped the sheet and picked her up,
Letting her slide down the fault 
That led from that delightful vault.
Our heros with consummate ease,
Dragged poor Jane across their knees,
Avoiding a constricting crack
By sliding her across Bolt’s Back.
At one point, sideways in a slot,
The sages thought, she'd had her lot,
But a bod with cunning brain
Thought of string to take the strain,
And yet another rope, whose ends
Were neatly threaded where she bends,
Was passed amongst the balanced rocks,
Avoiding all the bigger blocks,
And given to our sweaty crew,
Who lifted, and then pulled her through.

And so, by dint of back and rope,
As Jonathan hauled hard in hope,
We brought her, with her groaning muted,
Through that ruckle convoluted.

The moral of this practice drastic
Is “Make your drag sheets out of plastic"
One that slithers round the bends
Makes itself a lot of friends.
In spite of gorgeous covering fat
Jane would've liked a karrimat
To shield her wotsit from the rock
And insulate from thermal shock.
Her Whillans harness gave her hell,
But then it would a bloke as well.
Apart from that she said that she
Was pulled out most considerately.
Another hope, this most sincere,
Apart from one involving beer,
Is, if a caver comes to harm,
We pray they'll have Jane's wit and charm.


 

Dates For Your Diary

Fri. 22nd Jan.

Sludge Pit & Nine Barrows (Friday Niters);

Sat. 23rd Jan -Sun 24th Jan

North Wales, walking and climbing.  Phone Martin if you want space in the hut booked for you.

Fr. 5th Feb.

Lamb Leer (Friday Niters)

Sat. 6th Feb.

Wookey, dry passages (numbers limited, see Martin)

Wed. 17th Feb.

Paul Esser Memorial Lecture      (see previously in this bulletin)

Fri. 19th Feb

Eastwater (Friday Niters)

Fri.19th Feb. - Sat. 20th Feb.

Lake District.  The cottages are nearly all booked up.  Book now to avoid disappointment.

Sat. 27th Feb.

Penyghent/Long Churn.  Geoff Crossleys birthday party, Queens Arms, Litton.

Sun. 28th Feb.

Something in Littondale or nearby, to be decided.

Fr. 5th Mar.

Longwood (Friday Niters)

Sat. 6th Mar.

Bleadon Cavern (numbers limited, see Martin).

For Sale.

1 pair size 9 Galibier Super Pro's.

Phone Fred Weekes 0282 73 978

£ 50.00

Brand new.  Screw-gate alloy karabiners.  See them at the Belfry. 

Very cheap - very good - get yours now.